On a hot day in early August, David Prior was in the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily when he came across the Perfect Granita.
“Wild blackberries – from the island of Vulcano – and fig granita, then they put the cream on it,” he recalls. âIt’s sort of the perfect analogy between time and place, because it was the right week to have blackberries and the right week to have figs, in this heat too – 33 degrees [Celsius]. It was one of those iconic experiences of time and place, which is what we always try to evoke and achieve in the travel experience. And it’s simple, what is two euros? But it’s incredibly memorable.
The ideal combination of time and place (and the top with the bottom) is what Prior aims to deliver with his new travel club Prior, which he co-founded with Marc Blazer, the funder of Copenhagen’s famous restaurant Noma. . The Brisbane native – and longtime traveler – has served as international editor-in-chief of CondÃ© Nast Traveler and has written for T magazine, WSJ magazine, the Financial Times and others. Named to Bloomberg’s 2018 âPeople to Watchâ list, Prior has combined his knowledge and experience of the travel industry with his network of other editors and global industry contacts to launch a club offering members tailor-made trips around the world, as well as access to group trips organized with other members. But such experiences don’t come cheap: Membership costs $ 2,500, excluding the trips themselves, and is available upon request, starting September 4.
Prior, who is based in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, is a graduate of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. He started his career in the San Francisco Bay Area working with Alice Waters as Communications Director at Chez Panisse before moving into travel journalism.
His desire to start his own business began with a trip last spring, when he took 18 people to India for 23 days.
“All very prominent people: Alice Waters, the guys who own the Zuni CafÃ© [in San Francisco], various other people, âhe says, sitting in the Atla restaurant in downtown Manhattan. âThese were people who had been hitting me on the job over the years: ‘David, where do I go in white, what do I do in white?’ And I said, ‘Hey look: I’d like to make my editorial point of view an experiment.’ Because that’s where I felt it was going. So I created this trip – kind of a wild trip – and the logic behind it was to try and create a cover-worthy moment, almost every day.
He maintains that his perspective as a publisher is what sets him apart from a traditional travel agent. “I would do these stories, these beaches-around the world, to [CondÃ© Nast] Traveler, and you’d like to slightly design that moment where you capture the time and place and the good thing that really uplifts people up and allows them to experience something that they would otherwise have a hard time finding on their own. Because that was the purpose of the travel magazine, right? Especially 20 years ago, âhe says. “What I tried to do was elevate those experiences and also find the essence of those experiences.”
He brought a few photographers with him and started posting the content on Instagram, which was eventually seen by Blazer, who approached him to go into business together.
â’Experience is the new luxury’ is the giant clichÃ©, but it turns out to be true,â says Prior. âYou can make the biggest gesture, but the smallest moment can also be the most memorable – so what we’re trying to do is that specter. The middle is the thing we don’t do: a kind of high road and low road. “
He works with contacts around the world to create these diverse experiences for his clients.
“When I went out to CondÃ© Nast Traveler [last May], they said I had contact with everyone, from the fisherman to the prince, âhe says. âWhat we’re doing is trying to activate this spider web of networks to create experiences that currently exist outside of the travel industry. A lot of times you can have a guide, say, in Barcelona, ââpress play on “OK, this is La Boqueria”, and they just do the spiel. But instead, what’s it like to have the architect who preserves the Gaudi, and ask them if we could have a private dinner there for something special? “
There is no acceptance formula in his new club; he emphasizes that curiosity and character are the most important things. âI think interesting and interested people travel for diversity, to open their eyes, their ears, their hearts, their stomachs. It’s the ultimate sensory experience, âhe says.
The club started accepting a few token members six months ago – âpeople we couldn’t say no toâ – including Aurora James, Deborah Needleman and John Derian.
âI very deliberately found people with specializations all over the world. I’ve taken a lot of people from different industries with different perspectives, âhe says. âWe have a lot of people from the fashion industry working with us: our board is full of people from the fashion industry, like Fiona Golfar, who was editor-in-chief of British Vogue for 25 years; Deborah Needleman; Anjali Lewis, who is the CEO of Alexander Wang, and John Mehas, who is the chairman of Tory Burch. The way we think about it is establishing a brand.
He even took inspiration from Diana Vreeland, invoking the phrase “Why don’t you do …?” Â»Â» In Prior travel literature. âIt’s a matter of the imagination, it’s not just about ticking an Instagram box,â he says.
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